Thousands of Palestinian protesters mark anniversary of Nakba Day
Palestinians staged protests in the Gaza Strip and West Bank to mark the Nakba Day, which commemorates the expulsion in 1948 of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes in historical Palestine. Government institutions and commercial shops also shut their doors in line with a call by the National Authority for Breaking the Siege -- composed of several Gaza-based resistance factions -- for going out on a general strike.
Palestinians are marking the 71st anniversary of their mass displacement during the 1948 war around Israel's creation.
Demonstrations were held across the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip on Wednesday to mark what the Palestinians call the "nakba," or "catastrophe."
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes during the war surrounding Israel's establishment. Today, there are an estimated 5 million Palestinian refugees across the Middle East.
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, hundreds of people marched from the grave of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to a rally downtown, demanding the right to return to lost properties in what is now Israel.
Sirens also wailed across the West Bank at noon in an expression of sadness.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip staged a general strike on Wednesday to mark the Nakba Day, which commemorates the expulsion in 1948 of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes in historical Palestine.
Government institutions and commercial shops shut their doors in line with a call by the National Authority for Breaking the Siege -- composed of several Gaza-based resistance factions -- for staging a general strike.
The authority also called on Palestinians to mark the occasion by taking part in planned demonstrations in Gaza as a part of anti-occupation protests, which started last year.
It also warned "the Israeli enemy" against "committing follies against peaceful demonstrators".
Meaning "The Catastrophe" in Arabic, Nakba is a term used by Palestinians to refer to the 1948 expulsions, which were carried out by invading Zionist forces.
The Palestine-Israel conflict dates back to 1917 when the British government, in the now-famous Balfour Declaration, called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people".
Since March of last year, Palestinians have been holding weekly rallies along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone to demand the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in historical Palestine from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.
They also demand an end to Israel's 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave's economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.
Since the protests began more than one year ago, nearly 270 Palestinian demonstrators have been killed -- and thousands more injured -- by Israeli troops deployed near the buffer zone.